The folate receptor (FR) in HeLa cells was characterized as to ligandbinding mechanism, antigenic properties and membrane anchor in order toobtain information to be used for the design of biological agentstargeting FR in malignant tumors. The receptor displayed the followingbinding characteristics in equilibrium dialysis experiments(37°C, pH 7.4) with [3H] folate: a high-affinity type of bindingthat exhibited positive cooperativity with a Hill coefficient >1.0and an upward convex Scatchard plot, a slow radioligand dissociation atpH 7.4 becoming rapid at pH 3.5 and inhibition in the presence of otherfolates. The molecular size of the receptor was 100 kDa on gel filtrationwith Triton X-100, or similar to that of high molecular weight human milkfolate binding protein (FBP). The latter protein represents a 25 kDamolecule which equipped with a hydrophobic glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) membrane anchor susceptible to cleavage byphosphatidylinositol specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) formsmicelles of 100 kDa size with Triton X-100. The HeLa cell FRimmunoreacted with antibodies against purified human milk FBP inELISA, and in a fluorescence activated cell sorting system, whereHeLa cells exposed to increasing concentrations of antibody showed adose-dependent response. Exposure to PI-PLC decreased the fraction ofimmunolabeled cells indicating a linkage of FR to cell membranes by aGPI anchor. HeLa cells incubated with radiofolate showed a continuousuptake with time, however, with a complete suppression of uptake in thepresence of an excess of cold folate. Prewash of cells at acidic pH toremove endogenous folate increased the uptake. Binding and uptake of [3H]folate was increased in cells grown in a folate-deprived medium. The HeLaFR seems to be epitope related to human milk FBP.

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